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May 18, 2023 41 mins

Sex work was happening at SNCTM in various forms. The monthly party became known for its elaborate live sex shows, but there were other, more gray areas of exchange of sex for money happening, too. And as side hustles and “arrangements” became more popular, Damon found himself walking a fine line of morality, legality, and negotiating consent in an environment of wealth, excess and entitlement. 

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
School of Humans.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
Sanctum Unmasked is about a sex club and describes various
sex acts. Please use discretion where and when you listen.
It's ten am on a sunny LA Saturday on a
bubbly blonde wakes up in her low, scaleless apartment to
her dog's Scout, impatiently licking her face. She gets up,

(00:29):
makes coffee and scrolls Instagram and The New York Times interchangeably.
She takes Scout for a hike in Griffith Park, the
trail up to the Hollywood Sign, of course, then meets
a friend for lunch. She orders the Little Gem salad
instead of the egg and cheese bagel she actually wants,
noting that she's working later and doesn't want to look

(00:49):
five months pregnant, a mistake she made last month. At home,
she does four hundred sit ups in front of reruns
of Gilmore Girls, and then she starts the grooming process. Shower,
intense conditioning masks to sit on her bleached hair while
she shaves everything else. She calls her mom for a

(01:12):
quick ketchup while aggressively tweezing stray hairs from her bikini line, ouch,
rinse hair, apply fake tanner, moisturizer, hair serum. She throws
on jeans, Converse, and her favorite ex boyfriend hoodie and
calls an uber to the Sanctum mansion. In the green

(01:33):
room with a handful of other Sanctum performers, she ditches
the sweatshirt and sneakers and slips into a robe. A
makeup artist begins caking on her foundation in feathery eyelashes. Tonight,
she's performing in the live sex show. Now she has
to sit for like ninety minutes while the woman meticulously
applies rhinestones to her boobs to create a makeshift diamante bra.

(01:55):
She takes a large shot of vodka, followed by an aldoyd,
and now she's ready. Each time a Sanctum party rolls around,
she and the other performers put in all this effort,
always aware that as sex workers, their bodies are part
of everyone's experience. Okay, so I made that scene up,

(02:16):
but I'm probably not that far off. Since its inception
in twenty thirteen, sex work was happening at Sanctum in
various forms. Some are pretty straightforward. The monthly party became
known for its elaborate live sex shows, so they would
obviously hire performers to have sex with each other in
front of the guests. But there were other more gray

(02:37):
areas of exchange of sex for money happening too.

Speaker 3 (02:40):
I mean, he was running prostitution, but it was like indirect.
It was an eyewink prostitution if nothing else.

Speaker 2 (02:47):
That's journalist Mike Saeger again, the writer from Esquire who
shadowed Damon. Now reminder, we live in a puritanical society
where the consensual exchange of sex for money is illegal,
meaning at Sanctum and basically everywhere else in this country.
Negotiating payment and boundaries in the arena of sex work
is often vague and indirect, leaving a lot of room

(03:09):
for misinterpretation. Throw in some entitled billionaires, very young women,
copious amounts of alcohol, and probably some white powder too,
and unsurprisingly it can get messy pretty fast.

Speaker 3 (03:23):
Some of the high rollers, they were assured of being rolled.
At some point it was charging one hundred and forty
five thousand, and like, how are you going to not
have troubles with the people that are spending that much
money with you?

Speaker 2 (03:36):
What did these men who paid exorbitant amounts of money
to get into Sanctum think they were buying what were
the rules? Were their rules? In this episode, we're going
to explore the intersection of sex, money, and power at
Sanctum through the lens of sex work.

Speaker 3 (03:54):
When I was back in my newspaper days, everything always
had to be black and white, you know. I think
there's like a lot of gray with this. People's pleasure, desire, needs, guilts,
all those things come to a flash point with sex.

Speaker 2 (04:18):
Welcome to Sanctum Unmasked. I'm your host, Carly schortinau.

Speaker 4 (04:25):
By.

Speaker 2 (04:25):
Now you know Claudia who worked as an atmosphere model
at Sanctum for multiple years. In our conversation, part of
what we talked about was what exactly is a sex
worker anyway?

Speaker 5 (04:35):
I have this discussion with so many people all the time,
like are we sex workers or are we not?

Speaker 6 (04:39):
I don't know.

Speaker 5 (04:42):
I guess I haven't broken down the definition I guess of.

Speaker 2 (04:46):
Sex worker exactly.

Speaker 5 (04:47):
But I don't know if I necessarily consider that a
sex worker at least as an atmosphere model. Maybe, if
I was doing the performances, maybe, But I think that's
such like a gray area saying it as far as like, oh,
I don't want to be categorized into that because you know,
at this point, when you do everything that I do
in my day, like call me whatever you want to

(05:07):
call me, I've been called worse because there are so
many people that are so offended by the term sex worker.

Speaker 1 (05:12):
But to me, it's like, Okay, if I am, I am,
If I'm not, I'm not.

Speaker 2 (05:15):
See, even just defining the term is a nebulous task,
and this conversation has grown even more broad and confusing
with the explosion of OnlyFans, you know, the extraordinarily popular
subscription site that's primarily used to create and sell erotic content.
Considering that your pre men neighbor and your great aunt

(05:35):
Judy are both killing it on OnlyFans, well, are they
sex workers?

Speaker 5 (05:40):
Like me? For example, I don't do any triple X
on my only fans at all, So is me being
naked on my only fans? Is that considered sex work?
Or do I cross that line as soon as there's
masturbation or partner involved.

Speaker 2 (05:53):
Some of the performers at Sanctum Hired, we're already working
in what would traditionally be considered the sex industry, like
some work to porn or aserotic dancers. Take Jenna For example,
she was a performer at Sanctum for multiple years, but
before that she worked in the adult film industry, and
her experience had not been so great, being.

Speaker 7 (06:12):
Eighteen years old, not even watching porn and kind of
like throwing myself into this whole bdsmkink dot com like pornworld.
Starting out there, I kind of lost my boundaries and
I sort of lost my concept of consent. I was
going to parties where all of these porn stars were

(06:35):
just in your face with their cameras, like trying to
get content posts on their Snapchat subscriptions. So I mean,
I was, you know, in this sort of culture where
the consent didn't matter because oh, you're a porn star,
the consent's already there.

Speaker 2 (06:52):
So this was the world that Jenna had become accustomed to,
a world where people felt entitled to take without asking.
But then she took a job at Sanctum as a
performer in the live sex shows, and it instantly felt different.

Speaker 7 (07:06):
It wasn't really until I found Damon and Sanctum that
I realized that there are so many different cultures within
the adult world and the porn world and sex work.
I felt like this energy around me at the events
that I think is incomparable to any other type of

(07:28):
sex work or any other sexual interaction that I've ever had,
because you feel like this overwhelming sense of love, consent, respect,
and that people are there for the art, people are
there for the outfits, people are there for the performance,
and there are not cameras or phones allowed. So that

(07:50):
was the huge difference for me feeling like I had
a choice overall.

Speaker 2 (07:55):
Jennera calls her experience at the club as extremely supportive
because her boundaries were being respected, it became a safe
space to explore her sexuality.

Speaker 7 (08:04):
It definitely gave me erotic freedom and a sense of individuality,
less like a product and more like a person. It
really gave me a sense of belonging at a time
that I felt like I didn't belong anywhere.

Speaker 2 (08:21):
Which is incredible. And she's certainly not the only performer
we talked to who felt this way. Damien wasn't only
recruiting from within the sex industry, by the way, there
was another big way he found girls to work the club,
doing outreach on the popular sugar Daddy website seeking arrangement

(08:41):
in case you need a refresher. A sugar Daddy website
is a dating site that connects sugar daddies aka rich
guys with sugar babies who tend to be younger women
interested in dating rich guys. Convenient. Of course, there are
sugar mamas on these sites too, and not all sugar
babies are women, but I mean the vast majority of
users tend to fit this heterosexual cysgender mold. So the

(09:05):
idea is that people meet on these sites and then
go on to create a quote arrangement, and that word
can mean a whole range of different things, from a
genuinely romantic long term arrangement that functions essentially like a
traditional relationship but with an implied financial caretaking component, all
the way to a solely transactional arrangement aka paying for

(09:25):
a hookup and everything in between. Essentially, sugaring is a modern,
increasingly visible form of sex work that's been dressed up
and repackaged to be somewhat socially acceptable, and these sites
are widely used by college students. Some even give free
upgrades if you sign up with a dot edu college
email address. So anyway, Damon had a profile on Seeking Arrangement,

(09:49):
and he messaged women about potentially coming to work at
Sanctum in various atmosphere roles.

Speaker 6 (09:55):
It was actually a great place to find girls who
are open to sexual performances and all of I was
always incredibly straight up about everything. I'm hiring atmosphere performers,
you know, five hundred bucks for the night. They were
dressed in wild costumes. Atmosphere girls were girls that were
just you know that atmosphere. My old creative director Lena
would create all these scenarios, you know, and there'd be

(10:17):
like a girl who was a living table or a
lamp or like, you know, some character or something, and
they'd be, you know, in that character the whole night.

Speaker 2 (10:27):
And seeking arrangement was more than just a hiring tool,
a slutty zip recruiter, if you will. It was also
just a place to find young, hot women who might
want to come to the party as guests for fun.
And remember, women who made the invite list got in
for free. Essentially, Demon was curating a very specific environment.
He was filling the club with men who have a

(10:48):
ton of money and women who are at least open
to the idea of some sort of sexual exchange for compensation,
something for everyone. So he throws them together adds some
champagne and says, Okay, you guys, figure it out.

Speaker 6 (11:03):
People wanted to be in this world. They were meeting celebrities,
They're meeting, you know, very wealthy men. The atmosphere of
what was going on there was pretty amazing. You know,
a lot of these girls were sort of looking for
arrangements and stuff like that anyway, So this gave them
an opportunity to meet people and to create the kind
of life they wanted for themselves.

Speaker 2 (11:24):
It makes sense he's essentially just replicating the website, But
in real life.

Speaker 8 (11:28):
I think venues like this are a great opportunity for
money and fun.

Speaker 2 (11:35):
That's Elle Stanger. She's a sex educator who speaks about
safety and consent, particularly in environments like these. She also
works as a stripper in Portland. I wanted to get
her take on this particular dynamic within the club.

Speaker 8 (11:48):
For the workers who are hustling, if they can name
their own prices and negotiate, that's a great opportunity because
you can also make regulars that will see you outside
of that particular venue. And I understand why they would
want the workers to be happy and to populate the
venue with a lot of them. Because they want to

(12:10):
be able to charge, you know, thousands of dollars per
head for these wealthy, mostly men that come in.

Speaker 1 (12:16):
I would be really interested to be a fly on
the wall.

Speaker 2 (12:19):
Basically, if you're good at hustling, it can be a
gold mine. And like she said, you can sometimes make
connections inside the club that can turn into more long
term arrangements outside the club. One of the beneficiaries of
Damon's particularly curated party environment was David Winkler. David's a
movie producer in his fifties who he met in a
previous episode. The way David first heard about Sanctum was

(12:43):
actually through seeking arrangement. Basically, after he got divorced, he
was looking to have some casual fun. His sex life
up until that point had been pretty conventional, and he
needed a minute to thrive as his single, sluty self,
you know, and he discovered that seeking arrangement was a
great way to date women without the expectation of commitment

(13:04):
if you're interested. He actually detailed his experiences of being
a sugar daddy in a book he published in twenty
twenty two, aptly titled The Arrangement.

Speaker 9 (13:14):
Seeking Arrangement is Tender for people with money.

Speaker 4 (13:17):
I started out out of my marriage just paying for
a night, you know whatever, six hundred and two fifteen
hundred dollars for a date.

Speaker 9 (13:25):
We'd go to.

Speaker 4 (13:26):
Dinner, we'd travel together, and I felt like I was
supporting their career goals and ambitions. I was never interested
in it being monogamous, but I liked how honest.

Speaker 9 (13:37):
It was, like know what he lied, Everybody knew what
we were doing.

Speaker 2 (13:41):
In other words, the money, which is often called an
allowance on sugar sites, you know, just to really lean
into that whole perverse daddy daughter thing, acts as a boundary.
For David. The money kept things casual, and he liked that. Also,
he felt the site was a place he could talk
openly about his sexual turn ons in a way that
felt new and exciting to him. His first few Sanctum

(14:02):
parties were a ton of fun. If you remember, he
told us that Sanctum made him feel like he wasn't
the only purve in town. So sweet. At the beginning,
he always went to the club with a date, but
eventually he decided to go solo, literally single and ready
to mangle, and that night turned out to be his
best yet.

Speaker 4 (14:19):
The highlight for me was once I did go alone
and I ended up hooking up with two women. I
knew one of the girls well, we had spoken on
seeking arrangement and had not met, and she said, you know,
you want to have some fun and I said absolutely.
And as we were going, she grabbed a friend and
she said, you want her to join us? I thought

(14:39):
she's beautiful. I said absolutely. She said, you know, will
you take care of us? And I knew exactly what
she was saying, and I said yes. You know, nobody
ever comes out and says, you know, what, are you
going to pay me? It's much more subtle than that,
will you take.

Speaker 2 (14:55):
Care of us? In other words, if we all rail,
you're going to venmo us later. Right, The sugar world
is chock full of vague terminology like this in order
to pretend you're not fucking for money, whether it's for
legal reasons or to preserve someone's sense of morality or
the guy's ego or whatever. As Joan Diddyon famously wrote,

(15:15):
we tell ourselves stories in order to live.

Speaker 4 (15:21):
I remember having sex with these two women and seeing
maybe twenty people in the room, and when it was over,
they applauded. I mean, you know, I write about that
in my book, literally hearing applause that I remember after
I having threesome, we walked upstairs and one of the
girls said, you want to get a drink? And I said,

(15:42):
you know, no, I think I'm going to go home,
and she said why, I said, well, it just doesn't
get any better than this. You know, I was the
king of Sanctum for five minutes. Where am I going
to go from here?

Speaker 9 (15:54):
I had pushed my sexual boundaries.

Speaker 2 (15:57):
From now on, I'll be offended if my partners on
a clawed me every time we have sex. Maybe I
can get Damon to facilitate this for me. After hearing
about David Sugar through some bonanza, I asked, did he
feel like there was a lot of this quote take
care of you stuff happening at Sanctum.

Speaker 4 (16:14):
I think the fact that they got a lot of
their hostesses and performers from seeking arrangement, you know, sort
of encouraged that exchange. But I think there was just
always this given that you could walk up to most
women there.

Speaker 9 (16:30):
And say, hey, are you interested in an arrangement?

Speaker 2 (16:33):
In other words, yes.

Speaker 4 (16:35):
Damon never walked up and said, hey, you know, do
you want that girl? She'd costs this, and he made
it feel classy. You never felt like you were purchasing sex,
but you knew it was there. At one point, he
had this other level of membership called like Dominus, and
I think you spent fifty thousand dollars to join, and

(16:55):
I think it was kind of a given that, you know,
you'd go to the party and Damon would have a
girl for you. And I'm not sure that Damon would
want to talk about this, and you know, he may
feel that it cheapens it.

Speaker 9 (17:07):
I don't.

Speaker 4 (17:08):
I'm pro sex work, so I don't think there's anything
to be ashamed about.

Speaker 2 (17:11):
So I asked Damon about this, and actually he didn't
shy away from talking about it.

Speaker 6 (17:16):
This gets into the realm of sex work morality. What's
okay and what's not okay, what's consensual and not consensual.
I have very clear boundaries from myself of what that is.
You know, I have absolutely no judgment against anyone that
wants to participate in that. At Sanctum like, the performers

(17:37):
were definitely open to doing all kinds of things, and
they would have their own personal exchanges and their own
personal interactions with people. And I left that up to
them to their own judgment. I didn't get girls from
seeking arrangements and say you're going to have sex in
my club for money. That would have brought my club
down to the ground really quickly.

Speaker 2 (17:57):
Although sometimes Damon can get touched about what this might imply.

Speaker 6 (18:02):
You know, there's bullshit stories in the press about, oh,
you know, most of the women there were paid. That
is so fucking false. Most of the women there were
not paid. Most of the women there were there because
they wanted to be there, and they'd had nothing to
do with money. Quite honestly, I absolutely did hire performers
to have sex with each other because we did sex shows,
but they were like foreign performers, and so for girls

(18:24):
who did make extra money, who did you know whatever,
sleep with a member and get money from them like
that was on them. So these girls were not hired
to fuck anybody.

Speaker 2 (18:35):
So yes, girls did get work on the side, but
Damon's basically saying that was not part of their job,
and I wasn't directly involved in it. However, as we'll
see after the break, Sanctum wasn't completely hands off in
this department. Of course, by now you know Ambrose in

(19:05):
his three years working at the club. He recalls making
a ton of money on the side, like sometimes he
meet rich guys at Sanctum who'd then go on to
see as escorting clients outside the club. However, he says
there was also a system in place at Sanctum for
facilitating this stuff in house. It feels a little weird
to keep saying this, but just for clarity, Ambrose is

(19:26):
a trans man but was still presenting as femme back
when he was working at Sanctum. Anyway, here's how he says.
All this stuff went down.

Speaker 1 (19:34):
Like around two am, sometimes one am.

Speaker 10 (19:36):
If we got the approval prior, we could get paid
out from working the performance, or we could try to
circulate the crowd and try to find someone who wants
to like rent a room with you, essentially, and whatever
occurs in there is between two consensual adults, but there's

(19:56):
no promise of sexual intercourse or anything sexual happening. However,
before that, Damon would always encourage us to like help
them finish essentially, But then there was a person that
was put in a more managerial position that would handle
the transactions of those things.

Speaker 2 (20:17):
And according to Ambrose, the system was working for him.

Speaker 10 (20:20):
Sometimes if I hustled hard enough, I could get booked
multiple times in a night before I went home as
a devotee, so I could come away with like several
thousand dollars from that night, which I sometimes did.

Speaker 1 (20:33):
We could do it his doubles also like do.

Speaker 10 (20:35):
A sessions with other performers if we wanted to, and
which I prefer doing because let's work. Also if like
one of you is like sitting on their face, like
looking at their body kind of thing, and the other
ones like riding them facing towards them, the person that
you're on top of can't see shit, and then you

(20:58):
guys can just make faces at each other, Like that's
so exhausting. I can't wait for this to be over,
like fake vomiting like dagny, or like signally like you
want to go to the bath room together, have a
little break, rest our, coot cheese, Lol.

Speaker 2 (21:17):
Threesomes less work and more fun.

Speaker 10 (21:21):
So girls would get like a grand for that, And
it wasn't u ttill a little bit later on that
I found out the people booking that hour they were
paying the club two K. We were only getting half
of that and doing all the freaking work.

Speaker 2 (21:38):
That's Ambrose's experience anyway, and that specific part he wasn't
happy with, but he was still making enough money to
make it feel worth it. According to him, at a
certain point at Sanctum, it evolved past members paying to
book a room for an hour or so to paying
to stay overnight at the mansion with a performer. Unsurprisingly,
there were never any contracts written up by Sanctum around

(22:01):
the operation of this stuff. Everything was conducted verbally, so
we are taking people's accounts at base value.

Speaker 10 (22:08):
I was one of the first people that got it
going with like we should do overnights, and like I
convinced this guy. He was like twenty one, twenty two,
he's like the son of a musician. I forget who,
but he had daddy's black card.

Speaker 2 (22:23):
On file there how much do you get paid for
an overnight?

Speaker 10 (22:26):
So I went back into like the kitchen area, green
room area and is like talking to Damon and someone
else and like I was like, I think I got
him convinced to one an overnight and they're like, we've
never done that before, Like how much we charged?

Speaker 1 (22:37):
Should we charge like three hundred?

Speaker 10 (22:40):
I was like no, I was like, you could charge
like five six k for this right here, right now,
And I was like, don't bullshit me.

Speaker 1 (22:48):
I know I'm making half of what you charge them.

Speaker 2 (22:50):
So what did they charge? They went with five thousand,
so you got twenty five hundred.

Speaker 1 (22:55):
Yeah, I was one of my best nights.

Speaker 2 (23:00):
Given Ambrose's telling of this, we felt like we had
to go back and ask Damon about this again. Remember
Ambrose is a stage name, not his real name, hence
the bleep you hear. The one thing that we did
have to ask you about is that you said I
definitely let these girls make money on the side. At
a certain time, we stopped letting them do that. But
I wasn't involved, but just saying that sometimes members could

(23:23):
like rent a room at the club and the performer
or devote whatever would have sex with them, and then
Sangdon would take a cut of that money.

Speaker 6 (23:33):
There's definitely some truth in that, you know, I was
definitely walking a line that. You know, it's a scary
thing to talk about, but I feel like I've been
devastatingly honest with everything, and I want to continue to be.
The way I set those things up, or the way
that I made that okay for myself was you know,

(23:55):
maybe a member would get a private room, and then
I would ask girls if they want to, you know,
joined the person in the room, and they would get
a cut of the room fee or whatever it was.
But I also said, like, you know, don't do anything
that you don't want to do. It's totally up to you.
Don't ever have sex with anyone unless you feel comfortable.
They're not paying to fuck you. They're paying for the room,

(24:17):
they're paying for some time with you, for whatever the
experience might be. I set it up in a way
where I felt like it was up to them to
consent or not consent.

Speaker 2 (24:27):
Right, So we've talked about this before. This intentionally gray
area language is a loophole of sex work, very often
employed by the sex workers themselves, Like a client is
booking the worker for quote their time, not for sex,
and then within that time you can do whatever you want.
So this is how Damon protected the club and himself

(24:49):
and the performers from the legal implications of these exchanges.
Remember this is the same language that Damon used with
the performers during the dominant ceremonies. If you recall from
a couple of pisodes ago, that's when certain members would
pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for special Dominance memberships,
which included a blood oath initiation ritual that resulted in

(25:09):
the new member having a threesome. Obviously, well, participation in
those was always completely voluntary for everyone. Damon never told
anyone you have to have a threesome. But at the
end of the day, the billionaire got the blood orgy
he wanted.

Speaker 6 (25:24):
We had dominant ceremonies and the girls were paid to
do those dominant ceremonies, and some of those ceremonies were
with some of the biggest rock stars in the world,
and it was like five six, seven girls all wanting
to do that dominans ceremony, and like, you know, how
do I choose which one gets to do it? It
was like they were so fucking excited to fuck that
rock star.

Speaker 3 (25:45):
You know.

Speaker 6 (25:46):
It was the opposite of me going, oh God, who
am I going to get to do this? The people
that were working for me, like they kept coming back,
They kept coming to me, can I work the next party?
Is there anyone that's going to come in that maybe
you can help me arrange something, or you know, they
kept coming back to me to facilitate what I assumed

(26:07):
they wanted.

Speaker 2 (26:09):
And notably, Damon actually had some help finessing all of this.

Speaker 1 (26:13):
And that was able to happen.

Speaker 10 (26:14):
Actually all that because they had an LA sheriff in
their pocket.

Speaker 1 (26:20):
He would go to the parties. So I actually met
him and knew him a bit.

Speaker 10 (26:25):
But Damon called me aside once and it was like,
that's a sheriff.

Speaker 1 (26:29):
We're good.

Speaker 10 (26:29):
Basically, he was like, nothing's going to happen to us
for doing this, which was essentially escorting.

Speaker 6 (26:38):
I had people that were members of my club, like
a sheriff. I had people in there that you know,
that were telling me like, you can do this, and
you can't do this. If you go in this direction,
you could get in trouble, so don't do that. And
I listened to them because I wanted to keep this
thing alive as long as I could.

Speaker 2 (26:55):
It's always helpful to have a professional on your side.

Speaker 8 (27:00):
Also reminds me of why wealthy people will always be
able to pay for things they want and get what
they want. If the client tele was poor, I'd say
that they'd get rated.

Speaker 1 (27:10):
I'd say if.

Speaker 8 (27:10):
They have incredibly high roller clients, they're probably a little protected.

Speaker 2 (27:15):
That's Elstanger the sex educator again telling it like it is,
so it sounds like it's sanctum. Everybody was getting what
they wanted, right. Well, there's also some potential dangers to
this undefined space, Like all of these terms take care
of you, arrangement, et cetera. They don't really mean anything specifically,

(27:35):
so they leave a lot of room for misinterpretation.

Speaker 8 (27:39):
And because it's so broad and gray area, there's a
lot of i think, potential opportunity for conflict where a
client thinks that because they spent X amount of dollars,
they can do whatever they want to you, which is
not how that works. I can see so many instances
and opportunities where dudes are like, I spent ten K,

(28:00):
twenty K, what do you mean I can't lick your pussy?
You know, like I'm sure it's happened, Like I've heard
people complain for a lallas Again.

Speaker 2 (28:08):
Exactly, when you're paying a fuck ton of money, you
usually want what you paid for, or at least what
you think you paid for. So these members who paid
tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to be a sanctum,
what exactly did they think they were purchasing? And what
did that mean for the performers who worked there. For example,
Ambrose clearly had some great and lucrative times at the club,

(28:31):
but he also has some unsettling memories. Was there parts
you enjoyed, parts you didn't enjoy? Basically, like did you
like it?

Speaker 1 (28:40):
Sometimes?

Speaker 2 (28:40):
Yes?

Speaker 10 (28:40):
Sometimes no? Sometimes I hated it. Sometimes I've got sexually
assaulted quite frankly, or sometimes I had to like stop
or like deflect someone from doing something I got really
good at, Like if someone was trying to put their
fingers in like my vagina or ass, I.

Speaker 1 (28:58):
Could move my foot to like get to.

Speaker 10 (29:00):
Stop doing that in kind of a way that wasn't
like so off putting, says someone trying to do something
unconsensually to you. And then there were moments when you know,
I had to like be like, oh, I'll be right back,
and then I'd like leave the room and I'd like
tell the security guard, I'm like, nope.

Speaker 1 (29:21):
Not good, not a good time.

Speaker 10 (29:24):
I'm done. You got to get him out of here.
And then I'd go to the green room and they'd
have the guy leave. They didn't blacklist people enough, though.

Speaker 2 (29:32):
As someone who's worked in the sex industry for years,
Elle also has a lot of experience with this type
of thing. Basically, some idiot feeling entitled to your body
just because you're a sex worker, and then you have
to negotiate consent with this drunk person in an environment
where you're a performer whose job it is to make
sure everyone's having a blast, so you have to keep

(29:53):
it quote sexy while telling someone not to finger you
against your will.

Speaker 8 (29:58):
As an entertainer, it is I'm so stressful trying to
keep the illusion of a good time, you know, sexiness,
relaxed or party or whatever, and try to manage someone
who like won't stop touching you even though they never
asked or they never paid or both, or someone that's
done something malicious like put a finger inside of you

(30:21):
when again they didn't ask.

Speaker 2 (30:22):
It can be really really scary.

Speaker 8 (30:24):
And also, like when I get nervous about going to shift,
I don't get nervous because I know that I'm going
to be naked. I don't get nervous because I know
that I'm going to have to do difficult pull tricks
or try to walk in heels. I get nervous because
I don't know how people are going to treat me
and what I'm going to have to emotionally or maybe
physically navigate.

Speaker 2 (30:40):
Basically, the burden of guests shitty behavior lands on the performer.
Of course, this stuff happens out in the regular world too,
not just illuminati orgies. Many of us have been in
a situation where some creep pinches your ass and you
find yourself riggling away from them, all fake laughing at
their bad joke. It's to not quote make it off.

(31:00):
I know plenty of women who have experienced the swift
anger of a rejected man who yells, I didn't want
to fuck you anyway, ugly bitch, after simply saying you
weren't interested. And that's without money being involved. And these
interactions can be heightened in an environment like sanctum or
the entitlement can be even more rampant. Over the years,

(31:21):
Damon's ex wife Melissa saw a lot of these blurred
lines and it raised some serious red flags for her.

Speaker 11 (31:26):
There was a lot of gray area, you know, And
some girls are different than others. Some are like, yeah,
you know, throw another two hundred bucks my way, and
like you can do this out or whatever to me,
and then some girls are like hell no, And then
those lines will get crossed and boundaries will get cross.

Speaker 1 (31:45):
So that's where it got scary.

Speaker 11 (31:47):
People start to come into your world and if you're
the owner of this club, you're gonna have some issues
with some girls.

Speaker 1 (31:53):
And that happened for sure.

Speaker 11 (31:55):
What do you mean girls coming to us and being
like this guy touched me and he should and that
touched me, and this guy asked me to go to
the bathroom with him and do sexual favors with him,
And so we would have to manage that person, kick
them out of the club if they were like a
big high spender, and that with bottle surface and like

(32:15):
the whole thing that becomes difficult. It was just a
lot to manage, and all of those little layers behind
the scenes, it was a lot.

Speaker 1 (32:26):
It was scary.

Speaker 11 (32:27):
There's a lot of times when Damon would come out
and be like, I don't want to do this anymore.

Speaker 2 (32:30):
It's killing me. I can't do it anymore.

Speaker 11 (32:33):
And then he would do the next one, and do
the next one and keep moving forward.

Speaker 1 (32:37):
And he just kept doing it and building it.

Speaker 2 (32:58):
So how do we solve the problems of consent within
these undefined sex work situations? Well, a lot of people
would argue that that's asking the wrong question. Maybe a
better question is is it even possible to properly negotiate
consent in a world where sex work is illegal, where
people can't even consent to what they want to do

(33:18):
with their own bodies as according to the law. Look,
sex work is happening everywhere, whether it's at a sex
party or only fans, or a porn set, or the
office of your favorite member of Congress, or anywhere else
that humans frequent, and many sex work advocates insist that
the best way to keep workers paid and safe is
to decriminalize sex work.

Speaker 8 (33:40):
So I would say in a decriminalized world, it would
be a lot safer for the workers because in this
great area of negotiation and legality, if something bad happens
to the workers again, they are not going to be
in a position to report it to police. In twenty

(34:01):
twenty one, over two hundred and fifty scientists, researchers, academics
who are advocates for harm reduction wrote a formal letter
to President Biden and VP Harris formally recommending the full
decriminalization of sex work. They're not alone in this. Organizations
like World Health Organization, Amnesty International, UN AIDS have been

(34:25):
stating for years globally and for decades why full decriminalization
is the best way to prevent extortion, to prevent trafficking,
to make it easier to address victimization. Any sex worker
who gets robbed or raped or assaulted is not going
to go to the police if what they're doing is illegal.

Speaker 2 (34:46):
And do Criminalization also allows trafficking victims to go to
the police without fear of being criminalized themselves. In fact,
the term sex work was created by activist Carol Lee
as an alternative to prostitution. I put the idea of
decriminalized sex work into the lexicon of a labor movement
rather than a moral or sex based movement. Now, decriminalization

(35:09):
is different from legalization. As El explains, legalization gives power
to the government, whereas decriminalization gives power to the worker.

Speaker 8 (35:18):
Legalization is not the answer. So just one example as
to why no legalization. Think about people who want to
work sex. But under a legalized system, there's going to
be things like government required forms or documents. If you're
someone who doesn't have a fixed address, or your domestic
violence survivor, or you're a transperson without updated documents, you

(35:42):
may not be able to meet the requirements in order
to be a legalized worker, so if they work sex,
they'd still be arrestable, which again targets most marginalized populations.

Speaker 2 (35:53):
Basically, we don't need the government involved in our sex lives. Thanks,
but no one's trying to get arrested for the consensual
work that they do. And Damon agrees with all this.

Speaker 6 (36:03):
It offers protections to these girls that are so important.
Sex works an interesting thing. It's obviously it's consensual. Two people,
adults are deciding that they want to do this, they
have a consentual agreement with each other, but that's still illegal.
You're not allowed to pay someone to have sex with you.
Because I assume that you wanted to be legal because
you want to protect these people, right, but you're not
doing that. You know you're doing the opposite.

Speaker 2 (36:24):
When you look at it that way, the criminalization makes
total sense. Whether or not this will actually happen in
this country, well, it's not looking great at least for now.
So all of these dilemmas with negotiations and consent and safety,
they started to get too much for Damon walking this line,
it was messy and dangerous. So he decided to bring

(36:44):
in some help.

Speaker 1 (36:45):
For a while.

Speaker 6 (36:46):
I did not shun that. I allowed that for sure,
But at some point I got a more professional manager
in management of a high end hotel, so his approach
to things was so different, and I think just right
away he just stepped in and was like, the last
stuff here that you can't be doing, you know, And
he changed some of the rules and we were like, okay,
you know what, these girls making this money is dangerous

(37:09):
and we have to put an end to it. So
that line started to get to me very uncomfortable, and
that would have ended my whole journey, and I probably
could have gone to jail. And I'm like, well, you
know what, you'd take over because I don't want to
do this anymore. So it started to shift.

Speaker 2 (37:23):
Okay, cool, solving the issue by just stopping it all
together sounds easy enough, right, But the one new issue
this created was that the side huzzle sex work was
how Ambrose and some of the other performers were actually
making the majority of their money.

Speaker 10 (37:39):
They did get to a point while I was working
there where they hired the operations manager. Our pey got
cut so hard they kind of stopped being so out
in the open or upfront even with me about doing
the devotee work.

Speaker 1 (37:56):
Like, to my knowledge, it was done.

Speaker 6 (38:00):
That their fee went down.

Speaker 9 (38:01):
It was that.

Speaker 6 (38:02):
I mean, I always paid them like four or five
hundred bucks, but they were no longer able to hustle
that extra money, and at some point certain people left
because of that. They made a decision that if I
can't hustle that extra couple thousand dollars in a night,
then you know whatever, I'll go work at a strip
club or I'll go do something else.

Speaker 2 (38:23):
This decision actually indicated a larger shift at the club,
one of moving away from the more free for all,
almost willfully messy nature of things to something generally more cautious,
more regulated. And it's not a coincidence that this happened
right around the start of the Me Too movement toward
the end of twenty seventeen.

Speaker 6 (38:42):
The girls that worked for me, in a sense, I
feel like I was in the same kind of strange
gray area where you know, I had people paying me
a lot of money to facilitate these things that I
didn't always feel comfortable with. You know, I didn't always
feel like it was the right thing to do, but
I did it for.

Speaker 2 (38:59):
Many of us. Me too, encouraged us to think about
consent and power dynamics in a more nuanced way, and
it made a lot of us look back and think,
meek I should have done that differently. Damon included.

Speaker 6 (39:13):
I had that realization, and it's a very strong one
that people will consent to things because they're desperate. There's
a bunch of money being dangled, and so yeah, yeah,
I want to do this. And when you're dealing with
powerful people and celebrities and all of that, and you
just want to be close to them and you just

(39:34):
want to kind of like touch on that magic for
a night, you might get yourself into a situation where really,
the next day you're just left alone. They're not going
to call you the next day. And at that time,
I allowed that concept of consent to make me feel
like I was walking a moral path. I'm not everyone's dad.

(39:56):
It's not my role to decide if someone 's consent
is enough. But today, you know, in my life now,
I wouldn't allow some of the stuff that I allowed.
I just wouldn't because, yeah, because consent isn't enough.

Speaker 2 (40:13):
Eventually, Damon got to the point where his dream was
becoming more of a nightmare. There were all the pressures
of running the club, obviously, and then there was the
havoc the club was reaking on his personal life, on
his family, and on his own relationship with sex. He
was rethinking what exactly he wanted for his future and

(40:35):
whether Sanctum should be a part of it at all.
Next on Sanctum Unmasked.

Speaker 6 (40:43):
The crazier I got, the more everyone in the mental
institution was just like, you know, cheering me on, Like
we're all in this asylum together.

Speaker 3 (40:51):
He's pulled towards certain universal truths, and then he like
goes too far into the volcano.

Speaker 1 (40:58):
It just got bad.

Speaker 2 (40:59):
I mean, he thought, with people's kids, and it's like war.
Sanctum Unmass is a production of School of Humans and
iHeart Podcasts, hosted and written by me Carly Shortino. Etily's
Perez is our lead producer and story editor. Amelia Brock

(41:20):
is our senior producer. Sound design, scoring and mixing by
George Hicks. Original music composed by Jesse Niswanger, backchecking by
Austin Thompson. Local illustration by Linda McNeil. Graham Gibson is
our recording engineer. Recorded at iHeart Studios in Los Angeles, California.
Executive producers are Nick Stump, Jason English, Virginia Prescott, Brandon Barr,

(41:41):
Elsie Crowley, and me Carl Shortino. If you're enjoying the show,
help us get the word out by leaving a rating
in your favorite podcast app. You can keep up with
Damon on Instagram. He's at Father Damon. Tune in next
week
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